food

Charles Melton Explained That Learning How To Cook His Mom's Korean Recipes Helps Him Feel Connected To Her And His Culture

If you asked actor and model Charles Melton what his perfect “food day” would be, he’d tell you that it starts in Kansas with a Korean breakfast from his mother’s kitchen — complete with seaweed soup, rice, kimchi, and eggs — and ends in South Korea with his grandmother’s soup.

food, how to, charles melton explained that learning how to cook his mom's korean recipes helps him feel connected to her and his culture

Rick Kern / Getty Images for Captain Morgan

Between Kansas and Korea, the 31-year-old Riverdale star’s perfect food day would also include a homemade steak from his house in California, and Whataburger and ice cream from Texas.

Now, if you’re wondering why all the globetrotting, the answer is relatively simple: Melton — who is white American (his father’s family originally emigrated from England) and Korean (his mother immigrated to the US from Korea in 1990) — moved around a lot as a kid since his father worked for the US military. As a result, he’s lived everywhere from states such as Kansas and Texas to countries like Germany and Korea.

But no matter where he lived, as Melton told Yahoo Life, his mother’s Korean cooking remained a favorite staple of his diet: “My mom [cooked] every meal. I always felt like I had home with food. It’s a no-brainer to say my mom’s meals are the best meals I ever ate.”

Because of his mother’s constant cooking, kimchi, kimbap and bulgogi made Melton feel at home wherever he lived. Growing up, he’d always watch his mother cook in their kitchen (a “sacred process,” he called it). However, he didn’t actually learn how to cook until he was 20.

food, how to, charles melton explained that learning how to cook his mom's korean recipes helps him feel connected to her and his culture

(FYI: Bulgogi is thin, marinated slices of meat cooked on a barbecue or grill. Most times, it’s made with beef, but you can also make it using other meats, like pork.) Whitewish / Getty Images

After moving out, Melton admitted that he realized how much he missed his mom’s cooking. So when he went home for the holidays one year, he asked her to teach him how to cook, telling her, “I just took this for granted. I just ate your food. I need to learn.”

food, how to, charles melton explained that learning how to cook his mom's korean recipes helps him feel connected to her and his culture

Jon Kopaloff / Getty Images,

Since then, Melton learned how to make his favorite Korean foods, including doenjang-jjigae, tteokbokki, and Korean barbecue.

food, how to, charles melton explained that learning how to cook his mom's korean recipes helps him feel connected to her and his culture

For the uninitiated: Doenjang-jjigae is a super popular Korean dish. It’s pretty much a soybean paste stew and usually includes other vegetables, seafood, and meat. Tteokbokki, on the other hand, is a stir-fried rice cake made with a spicy chili paste. Nungning20 / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Of course, if you’ve ever asked your mother or grandmother or older relative for their recipes, you might have experienced the same issue Melton did: His mom doesn’t use measuring cups, so there aren’t exact measurements and recipes for him to follow.

“She taught me a bunch of tricks,” Melton said instead, enabling him to understand how to adjust flavors accordingly. “She would ask me, ‘What does this need? Is this too spicy? Too salty?'” Thanks to his mom, he can make “great bulgogi” and a “decent version” of kimchi.

Plus, now that he knows how to make these dishes himself, Melton experiments with blending aspects of Korean and American foods. One example he gave: Kimchi burgers.

As someone who is also mixed Korean, this made laugh because my mom’s family — who immigrated to the US in the mid-70s — also would make kimchi sandwiches (with Wonder Bread though, rather than hamburger buns).

More importantly, Melton shared that cooking Korean and Korean-inspired foods help him stay connected to his mom (especially as they live a few states apart). “Food connects,” he said. “It creates a bridge to my mother. I’m always calling her up for recipes…asking her, ‘Do I use this? Do I use that?'”

food, how to, charles melton explained that learning how to cook his mom's korean recipes helps him feel connected to her and his culture

What’s more, Melton makes it a point to introduce his friends to try Korean foods — even the skeptics. If he brings kimchi to a potluck, he’ll tell everyone how much he loves the dish, adding that “it’s good for your body,” and that “if you want a long lifespan, you have to eat kimchi.” Emma Mcintyre / Getty Images / Via instagram.com

At the end of the day, no matter your culture, it’s safe to say that food helps you feel connected to it. And, let’s be real, nobody’s cooking will ever be as good as your family’s. So what are your favorite foods and why? Does eating them make you feel at home? Share in the comments below!

You can read more from Melton’s interview with Yahoo Life here.

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